When people describe Larchmont, they use words you might find in a fairy tale: “charming,” “quaint,” “picture-perfect.” The mommy bloggers at family lifestyle web site Wee Westchester call it “Serenity by the Sea,” writing: “With its picturesque village, stately homes, and seaside location on the Long Island Sound, Larchmont offers big rewards.”
It’s all true, says Jennifer Boka, a licensed real estate salesperson with Sotheby’s International Realty who grew up in Larchmont. “Having access to the views and the breezes—it’s wonderful to be near that as a child,” she says.
Family-friendly Larchmont offers something for every interest and so much to do, the kids will never get bored. There is a large sailing community; green spaces such as the popular Flint and Manor Parks; and an abundance of tennis courts, nature trails, athletic fields, and picnic areas—even ice-skating and hockey at Hommocks Park Ice Rink.
The village’s sophisticated but friendly vibe is another draw. Palmer and Larchmont Avenues are lined with upscale boutiques like Wendy Gee!, Clutch, and Designer One, as well as family-friendly spots like clothing store maxime & friends and children’s bookshop The Voracious Reader. Throw in the Larchmont Playhouse, specialty cheese shop and café Auray Gourmet, chocolate shop cocoa, and art galleries such as Kenise Barnes Fine Art, and you have the complete picture of the high-end family heaven the village contains.
But none of this would matter, if the school district wasn’t top-notch, says J. Philip Faranda, an independent real estate broker in the county. “School district is the huge driving force” for families with school-age children, he notes. Larchmont residents attend Mamaroneck schools, which are consistently well ranked not only in the county, but in the state and country. (Larchmont is also home to the French-American School of New York, popular with the town’s significant French population.) Mamaroneck High School is even known for having a performance arts curriculum, a four-year program in which students study dance and music.
The assumption that you have to pay a fortune to live in this fairytale-land is largely true. All those magnificent, sprawling homes don’t come cheap: The median home price in 2013 was nearly $1 million. But, says Boka: “There are so many options for homebuyers here.” Those who are house-hunting in the less-than-seven-figure range will find options closer to the train station and village center. These are especially popular with parents who like the 40-minute commute into the City and who don’t want to be reliant on a car.
Perhaps the greatest testament to Larchmont, says Boka, is that people stay loyal to the village throughout their lives. “So many people who grew up there come back and live there with their families,” she says.
Other Dream-Home Hot Spots
For school-obsessed parents, Edgemont is beginning to rival Scarsdale as the place to be. “[The demand for homes in] Scarsdale is insane,” says Keller Williams agent Jeremy Zucker. “But I’ve actually had a few people say they don’t want to be in Scarsdale because of the pressure on their kids. Edgemont is a really popular alternative; the schools are excellent.” Edgemont Jr/Sr High School has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report many times as one of the top schools in the nation. But you’ll pay for that praise: Though Edgemont is more affordable than Scarsdale, you’d still be hard-pressed to find single-family homes here for less than $800,000 (and both generally run $1 million-plus).
Armonk is growing increasingly popular for “families who can afford a big spread,” says Zucker. In addition to abundant space (the typical Armonk home is set on multiple acres and costs close to $1 million) and top-rated schools, there is also a newly flourishing downtown scene. Trendy restaurants such as Moderne Barn, Zero Otto Nove, and Restaurant North line the hamlet’s streets, and there are five theater groups (including The Armonk Players and The Small Town Theater Company). The recent addition of Armonk Square offers standouts such as Bowls, a make-your-old salad place; food purveyor DeCicco Family Market; high-end kid’s boutique Jagger and Jade; and the bustling Italian restaurant Fortina. Hollywood sweethearts and Bedford residents Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were even spotted on a date in the Square last year.
Living In: Larchmont Dream Home
When Jenny Liang and Ian Milward found out they were expecting a third son, they knew it was time to move out of Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. “We came back from the ultrasound and knew it was a boy,” says Liang-Milward, “and my husband looked super-glum and said, ‘We have to move. We have to have a yard.’”
They started looking for places that would offer a short commute from midtown Manhattan so Milward could get home after work to see the kids before they went to bed. And they wanted a place that would feel as bustling and cosmopolitan as their beloved Brooklyn neighborhood. “What I loved in New York City was not having to drive and having a lot of things around you,” says Liang.
Larchmont was the one place that met all the criteria. The family now lives a block and a half from Chatsworth Avenue School, in a neighborhood that has a preschool, a pizza parlor, a CVS, a gourmet deli, bookstores, a wine bar, and even a specialty cheese shop. “It’s so social,” says Liang. “We just walk to places and never have to worry about driving or getting a taxi.” Everything is so close that their au pair doesn’t even have to drive.
It’s also very diverse. On their street of fewer than 15 houses, a third of the families have some sort of international component. “I think Larchmont draws an international population because it feels like a village,” says Liang. It’s also relatively down-to-earth by Westchester standards, she adds—a place where kids play in the front yard, and there is no need to dress up for parties.
Though Liang once thought she could never leave the City, she doesn’t miss it that much. “We still go back and visit Brooklyn,” she says, “And now we think it’s so noisy and dirty!”